Family History Friday: Wills

This week we thought we’d look at wills in a little more detail. We tend to assume that only the more wealthy people left a will but that’s not always the case. If a will does exist for one of your ancestors it can often include information not found elsewhere, such as their wealth, a detailed description of their possessions and relationships. However wills can also be confusing, hard to find and hard to understand, particularly if they are written in Latin. You may also find references to your ancestor in other people’s wills.

Until January 1858 most wills had to be proved in an ecclesiastical court. The Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) handled those in the south of England and Wales, whilst the Prerogative Court of York (PCY) covered the north of England. These were then further divided into dioceses and each diocese further divided into archdeaconries. Generally a poor person’s will was likely to have been dealt with by an archdeacon’s court, a wealthier person who had possessions in more than one archdeaconry was dealt with by a diocesan court. The prerogative courts usually dealt with the upper classes and the wealthier middle classes. Most diocesan and archdeaconry wills will be found in local archives.

Note that the date a will was proved is not the same as the date of death. It sometimes took years to complete the process of proving a will and wills are indexed by the date that probate was granted. Disputed wills could have been considered newsworthy so it might be a good idea to check local or national newspapers to see if they were reported.

Probate Search
Find a will | GOV.UK (
This is the official government database where you can search 41 million wills dating back to 1858. You’ll need the name and date of death in order to find the will. There is a cost if you wish to see a downloaded will (currently £1.50 per will). The help page gives useful further information about how to do this.

The National Archives
Research guides keywords – The National Archives
As you’d expect there are several research guides which are a great help.

Find My Past
Historical Records – Search all Record Sets |
This is probably the largest resource for pre 1858 wills and of course it’s free to visit and use if you’re a member of Wakefield Libraries.

AncestryLibrary™ (
To search for wills click on the Search button and choose Wills and Probate from the drop down menu. As with Find My Past it’s free to visit and use if you’re a member of Wakefield Libraries.

National Library of Wales
wills – National Library of Wales Catalogue (
For wills proved in the Welsh ecclesiastical courts prior to 1858.

Scotland’s People
Guides | ScotlandsPeople
This links to a helpful research guide. The wills and testaments index contains over 611,000 index entries to Scottish wills and testaments dating from 1513 to 1925.

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
Search will calendars | nidirect
Search the index to will calendar entries for the District Probate Registries of Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry covering the period 1858 to 1965. View digital images of copy wills for Armagh, (1858 to 1918), Belfast (1858 to 1909) and Londonderry (1858 to 1899).

Pre 1858 Durham Probate Records
North East Inheritance database (
An online database of pre-1858 probate records (wills and related documents), from Northumberland and County Durham. The pre-1858 Durham Probate Records include wills and related documents from the areas under the probate jurisdiction of the Diocese (and Cathedral) of Durham, which at that date consisted of the following areas:
Northumberland (excluding Hexham and Hexhamshire, and Thockrington)
Tyne and Wear
County Durham
Crayke (Yorkshire) and Alston (Cumberland)
Northallerton and some surrounding townships in Yorkshire

Family History Friday: Research Guides created by The National Archives

We often refer to these guides as they’re such a useful starting point when looking at specific topics but today we thought we’d concentrate on how to search for them and what likely resources they’ll refer you on to. They will show you what records are available and where you might find them. Quite often their suggestions will include records that you hadn’t thought of or weren’t aware that they existed.

  1. Go to The National Archives
  2. Click on “Help with your research”.
  3. Then under “Find a research guide” either click on “Use our A – Z index” or select from one of the popular topics featured below on the page. In our example we want to find out more about air raids in Britain during the Second World War so we’ll use the “Use our A – Z index” and then select the letter “A”.
  4. In “Step 2 – select a keyword” we’ll select “air raids”.
  5. This takes us to “Bomb Census survey records 1940 – 1945”.
  6. When you click on this the research guide becomes available.
  7. As you’ll see the first item of information tells you how you can view the records covered in the guide – in this case you can’t view them online but you can order copies, visit The National Archives at Kew to view them or pay for research.
  8. Further information includes why these particular records were made and how they were collected.
  9. Details of the three most useful series of records that are kept at The National Archives are given and show what information is in them. Suggestions on how to search them and what keywords could be used are given.
  10. Further document references are given for example “Bomb Census maps arranged by the different types of bombs that were dropped” and “air raid damage file references by region”.
  11. The research guide also points you to records that may be held in other archives and online sources. Included in the Online Sources are Bath Blitz , North-East Diary 1939 – 1945 ( and the West End at War: history, photos, memories, and maps of London during the Second World War . Guidance on how to find records in other archives is given.
  12. And finally, though this isn’t always the case, a “Further reading” booklist is given. You’ll probably find that many of the titles suggested are available through Wakefield Libraries.

Family History Friday: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Sources

For those of you who have already researched your family history further back into the eighteenth century you’ll know how difficult it is to find records. And the further back you go, the harder it gets. You may also know that the richer your family were, the more likely you are to find records that refer to them. So before the days of civil registration and the census, the records you’re most likely to be using will be parish, electoral, court and tax records. As usual we’ve a few suggestions that may help you in your search.

Connected Histories
Connected Histories
A wealth of material can be found here, though some does require a subscription in order to view it. Among the records are London Lives 1690 – 1800 and British History Online.

Protestation Returns
Protestation Returns for Family History – Parliament Archives
Protestation Returns are the closest record we have to a census from 1642. By order of the House of Commons, all adult men were asked to swear an oath of allegiance to the Protestant religion in 1642. Their names were duly inscribed in a list in each parish, and the list sent back to Parliament. In a few areas such as Cornwall, people wrote their own names, and women were included. But usually a local official wrote out all the names. The Protestation Returns survive for about a third of English counties.

Family Search
Historical Record Collections —
This link takes you to a list of collections within Family Search which include Parish Registers, Bishop’s Transcripts, and Marriage Bonds. You can then use the filters to narrow down your search.

The Old Bailey
Old Bailey Online – The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913 – Central Criminal Court
We’ve mentioned this site before but it’s well worth exploring. It’s a fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court.

The British Newspaper Archive
Home | Search the archive | British Newspaper Archive
You can refine your search to fifty year date ranges and browse newspaper titles from the 1700s onwards. Being a member of Wakefield Libraries means that you can access this website for free in one of our libraries.

The National Archives
The National Archives | E179 | Home page
Here you can search the class of records known as “King’s Remembrancer, particulars of account and other records relating to lay and clerical taxation”. These records relate to the taxation of the laity in England and Wales, as well as descriptions and discussions of every tax levied on both the laity and the clergy over the period covered by the documents.

Hearth Tax Digital
Hearth Tax Digital (
Following the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660, the hearth tax was levied in England and Wales from 1662 until 1689 (it continued to be collected in Ireland until the early nineteenth century). It was charged according to the number of fireplaces in dwellings, and it was collected twice each year at one shilling per hearth. It was also levied in Scotland in 1691 with collection lasting until 1695. The hearth tax provides a remarkably rich series of records on population, wealth distribution and poverty in a period of key political, social and economic change.

The Genealogist
The Genealogist: Search Census, Births, Marriages, Deaths, Parish Records, Non-Conformist Records, Directories, Military Records, Wills & more!
A subscription site but it does contain a lot of eighteenth century material including militia muster records dating from the 1780s.

BBC Family History
BBC – Family History – 17th and 18th Century Sources
An excellent guide written by well-known genealogist Else Churchill, the Genealogy Officer of the Society of Genealogist since 1998. 

Cyndi’s List
Cyndi’s List – United Kingdom & Ireland – U.K. Military – Historical Military Conflicts, Events or Wars – The English Civil War (
We don’t mention Cyndi’s List as often as perhaps we should as it’s definitely the “go to” site for a list of links that point you to genealogical research sites online. Here we’ve given you the link to sites for the English Civil War.

Family History Friday: Nonconformist records

Wesley Street Methodist Church, Ossett

Having recently looked at possible places to search for Catholic and Jewish records, we thought we’d turn our attention this week to Nonconformist records. Whilst Catholics and Jews are sometimes referred to as nonconformists, the term is usually used for the non-Anglican Protestant denominations for example Methodists, Baptists and Quakers.
Most post-1837 nonconformist registers are kept in local record offices. Some nonconformist chapels did have their own burial grounds and many nonconformist burial registers are still kept at the burial grounds themselves.

BMD Registers
Non Conformist BMD Register Search | BmdRegisters
Records of birth, baptisms, marriage, death and burial taken from non-parish sources can be found here and include those for Methodists, Wesleyans, Baptists, Independents, Protestant Dissenters, Congregationalist, Presbyterians, Unitarians, Quakers (Society of Friends), Dissenters and Russian Orthodox. Maternity Records. Overseas Records. Early Birth Registers plus various other BMD records. As it’s the official TNA (The National Archives) partnership site with The Genealogist it is a pay to view site, but if you already subscribe to The Genealogist then you’ll find the same information is on that website as well.

London, England, Non-conformist Registers, 1694-1931 | Ancestry® (
Amongst their large collection of nonconformist records is this one, which contains baptism, marriage, and burial registers from 1694-1931 for many Non-Conformist churches in the greater London area.

Find My Past
England & Wales Non-Conformist Births and Baptisms |
There are more than 1.5 million non-conformist records available and more than 50 denominations are covered in the records; some of which existed only briefly and are no longer practiced today.

Knottingley Wesleyan Methodist Chapel

My Methodist History
My Methodist History | Telling the story of the people called Methodist
This site encourages people to share photographs, stories, memories and research about anything to do with the Methodist Church since the various strands joined together in 1932. There are links from this page to other related sites My Primitive Methodists My Primitive Methodists | Sharing stories, photos, memories and research , My Wesleyan Methodists My Wesleyan Methodists | Sharing stories, photos, memories and research   and My United Methodists My United Methodists | Sharing Methodist family history, memorabilia and research .

Quaker Archives, Leeds University Library
Quaker Collections | Special Collections | Library | University of Leeds
The University Library is the main repository for Yorkshire Quaker Archives. The two main collections of Quaker records are the Carlton Hill Collection and the Clifford Street Collection. Carlton Hill broadly covers the Leeds, Bradford, Settle and Knaresborough areas; Clifford Street the York and Thirsk areas, as well as records for Yorkshire as a whole.

Quaker Family History Society
Index (
The Quaker Family History Society was formed in 1993 and is a member of the Federation of Family History Societies. Their aim is to encourage and assist anyone interested in tracing the history of Quaker families in the British Isles. They are based in Britain, so do not claim any expertise on the history of Quakers outside Britain. Included in the site is a very useful county table which helps you to locate meeting records.

Quakers in Britain
Search the catalogue | Quakers in Britain
included in the online catalogue are over 1000 manuscript collections and personal papers of Quakers and Quaker families, such as the diaries of Elizabeth Fry

Baptist History and Heritage Society
Baptist History & Heritage Society – Just another WordPress site (
An organization of Baptist historians and other individuals and partner institutions committed to communicating the story of Baptists through the study, interpretation, publication, and advocacy of Baptist history.

Central Baptist Church, Ossett

Baptist Historical Society
Baptist Historical Society – helping British Baptists understand their heritage and history. (
This site aims to help British Baptists understand their heritage and history and provides an opportunity for those who wish to study the life of Baptist churches, and people.

Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland
Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland (
Founded in 1907 the object of the Society is to explore and promote an understanding of the history of Presbyterianism in Ireland. This is achieved by various means, including the collection and preservation of historic materials and records of these churches.

Family History Friday: Textile workers

Worker at Jagger’s Mill, Ossett

The textile industry was one of the main industries which drove the Industrial Revolution and high quality textiles made in the main districts, the Midlands, the north-west of England and the Clyde Valley in Scotland, were sent across the world. You’ll find plenty of records about firms but you may also be able to find factory wage books or union membership records which will include your ancestors’ names. We’ve also included places to visit which are currently still closed but hopefully will soon reopen fully to the public.

Spinning the Web
Spinning the web – the story of the cotton industry | (beta)
 A very useful, if somewhat dated site, which brings together some 20,000 items from the libraries, museums and archives of North West England which tell the story of the Lancashire Cotton Industry. Users can search the collection or explore a series of themes: an account of the period 1760 to the present day; the impact of cotton on villages, towns and cities; living and working in the mills; how cotton was made and sold; and the uses of cotton in clothing and other products.

Cotton Town
Cotton Town
If you happen to have ancestors who worked in the cotton industry in Blackburn with Darwen, then we highly recommend this site, which provides a wealth of information for example the “Handloom Era” focuses on the living and working conditions experienced by the weavers and spinners of Blackburn and Darwen. It explains about the machinery they used, the good and the bad times, and the decline of the “Handloom Era”. It also gives a comprehensive list of hand loom weavers’ cottages in Blackburn and Darwen, some of which are still occupied in the 21st century.
If your ancestors lived in this area but weren’t connected to the cotton industry, we’d still recommend that you visit this site as it also gives much information about other industries in the town and general life in the area with sections on Health & Welfare, Housing and Shops & Markets.

Workers leaving Colbeck Mill, Flanshaw Lane, Flanshaw

University of Manchester Library
Special Collections (The University of Manchester Library)
Major sources for the textile industry include the archives of Samuel Oldknow, McConnel & Kennedy, Sun Mill, Rylands & Sons, W.M. Christy & Sons, and the Fielden Brothers of Todmorden, and also the Greater Manchester Mill Survey Archive, which contains information on all textile mills still extant in the county during the 1980s.

Cotton Factory Times
Cotton Factory Times in British Newspaper Archive
This is an extremely recent addition to the British Newspaper Archive and well worth exploring. The blog gives further information (Cotton Factory Times | The British Newspaper Archive Blog). It was first published on the 16 January 1885 and was the brainchild of newspaper owner John Andrew, who ran the Ashton Evening Reporter. It was his aim to sell more newspapers to workers at the local cotton factories in Lancashire and Cheshire, and to do that he believed he needed to create a newspaper aimed solely at this demographic. So what could you find within the pages of this organ of the cotton factory workers? Well, there were sections including ‘Notes from the Factories,’ ‘Thoughts on Home Life,’ and ‘Voices from the Spindle and the Loom.’ All these sections combine to paint a vivid picture of what daily life was like at the cotton factories, from reports of accidents to reports of dismissals (one poor woman was dismissed for being fifteen minutes late!).

Quarry Bank Mill
Quarry Bank | National Trust
Over the past four years Quarry Bank has been at the centre of one of the largest projects in the National Trust’s history. New areas have been restored and for the first time ever visitors can now explore the complete industrial heritage site at Quarry Bank, once one of the largest cotton manufacturing businesses in Britain, on the edge of the first industrial city in the world.

Queen Street Textile Mill Museum, Burnley
Queen Street Mill Textile Museum – Lancashire County Council
Queen Street Mill is a former weaving mill in Harle Syke, a suburb to the north-east of Burnley, Lancashire, that is a Grade I listed building. It was built in 1894 for the Queen Street Manufacturing Company and is now a museum.

Scottish Textile Heritage
History of textiles: Scottish textile heritage – Archives Hub (
The project which led to the creation of this site sought to map Scottish textile collections found in archives and museums. It includes the archives of many companies, organisations and individuals connected to the industry. Companies include Paisley thread manufacturers J & P Coats Ltd, Dundee jute firms such as Sidlaw Industries and Scottish Borders tweed firms Blenkhorn Richardson and Bernat Klein. There are also examples of trade and employers associations such as the Govan Weavers and the national Association of Scottish Woollen Manufacturers.
The project has also developed an image gallery of over 400 textile objects and a series of online resources including short essays, bibliographies, gazetteer maps and a glossary of Scottish textile terms.

New Lanark World Heritage Site
Home – New Lanark Visitor Centre
New Lanark World Heritage Site is a unique 18th century Mill Village sitting alongside the picturesque River Clyde, less than one hour from Glasgow and Edinburgh. Founded in 1785 with a focus on philanthropy, education and the welfare of the mill workers, New Lanark became a model for industrial communities that was to spread across the world in the 19th and 20th centuries.

RGS Pattern Book Co, Ossett

Saltaire World Heritage Site
Saltaire, World Heritage Site (
Titus Salt was a man with a vision of an industrial utopia, and when he built Salts Mill and the surrounding village of Saltaire, he was bringing that vision to life. The mill was built to emulate a palazzo of the Italian Renaissance. Salt believed this was a time when social and cultural advancement were a direct consequence of the commercial ability of textile barons. When Salts Mill opened in 1853, it was the biggest factory in the world. 3000 workers toiled away at 1200 looms, producing 30,000 yards of cloth every single day. In a twenty five year building spree, Salt also built housing, a church, schools and almshouses for his work force.
Saltaire is a village where people live. You don’t have to book to come here and Salts Mill is free to enter. There are shops, places to eat, wonderful architecture and a lovely park.

Trade Union Ancestors
Welcome to Trade Union Ancestors – Trade Union Ancestors
We’ve mentioned this site before as it can help you locate a specific trade union in time and place with the A to Z index of trade unions and trade union family trees. In addition, you can read about some of the events and people that shaped the trade union movement through 200 years of history in our trade union histories, trade union lives and striking stories.

Family History Friday: Rural Craftsmen and Women

Blacksmith with a horse, Featherstone

The number of surviving documents relating to particular cottage industries and rural crafts varies considerably, depending on the type of craft that you are interested in. The collections found in libraries and museums relating to the local history of their area may be your best starting point but we’ve included a few specialist websites that might also help you learn more. As museums are beginning to reopen to the public we’ve also added a few suggestions of places that you might like to visit in order to increase your knowledge.

Blacksmiths Index
The Blacksmiths Index (
if you’ve blacksmiths in the family then this is your “go to” website. Indexed both under county and surname, the amount of information that you’ll find does vary but you’ll usually find their name, date of birth, family information and address, as well as where the information came from (usually census records).

Historical Directories
Historical Directories of England & Wales – Special Collections
We’ve mentioned this site before as it contains trade and local directories for England and Wales from the 1760s to the 1910s. The collection contains 689 directories, with at least one directory for every English and Welsh county for the 1850s, 1890s and 1910s. Searchable by name, place and occupation this is an essential tool for local, urban and family history. You can find Kelly’s and Pigot’s directories here, as well as those by regional publishers. 

Old Occupations
List of Old English Occupations and descriptions (
if you’ve ever found an obscure occupation mentioned in a census and been unsure as to what it could be, then this page could help. The list is by no means exhaustive but does give a brief description against each occupation listed eg a Straw Joiner was a person who thatched roofs.

Workers leaving Colbeck Mill, Flanshaw Lane, Flanshaw

Mills Archive
The Mills Archive – We preserve & protect records of our milling history
The Mills Archive contains documents and photographs of traditional and contemporary mills and milling, as well as similar structures dependent on traditional power sources. It makes that material freely available for public inspection and use in research and learning. The Mills Archive is one of the world’s great mill collections. It has over 3 million documents and images that are free to users. The collections show the rich and diverse crafts, buildings, machinery, equipment and people involved with mills in the UK and around the world.

The History of Straw Plait in Herefordshire
Hertfordshire Genealogy: Occupations: Straw Plait (
Contains many pages about occupations in Herefordshire and some of these relate to the local straw plaiting industry.

Rural Museums
Rural Museums Network | A registered charity that promotes learning and encourages a wider understanding of the UK’s rural heritage
Included on the site is a map which shows where the different rural museums are. You can also discover where a museum dedicated to the particular craft that you are interested in is situated.

Museum of English Rural Life
The Museum of English Rural Life (
The Museum of English Rural Life archive, library and object collections tell the story of rural England. The collections are a major source of knowledge and inspiration about how people lived and worked in the countryside. They tell the story of how food and farming matter to everyone.
The archives range from papers of individual farms and large estates through the institutional archives of major countryside organisations to the trade records of agricultural firms, as well as over a million rural photographs, films relating to the countryside, tens of thousands of engineering drawings, personal records and journals of farmers, farm workers, land girls and evacuees.
The library is the most important in the country for the study of British agriculture, the countryside and rural society. The majority of the 50,000 volumes in the library are open access and there are also extensive runs of historically significant journals from the nineteenth century onwards.
The object collections contain over 25,000 objects, including many not on display, which provide a material record covering 1750 to the present day.

National Wool Museum, Wales
National Wool Museum | National Museum Wales
Wool was historically the most important and widespread of Wales’s industries. The picturesque village of Dre-fach Felindre in the beautiful Teifi valley was once the centre of a thriving woollen industry, earning the nickname ‘The Huddersfield of Wales’. Located in the historic former Cambrian Mills, shirts and shawls, blankets and bedcovers, woollen stockings and socks were all made here, and sold in the surrounding countryside – and to the rest of the world. Currently closed to visitors, when it does reopen you can follow the process from Fleece to Fabric and visit the sympathetically restored listed mill buildings and Historic Machinery.

Worker at Jagger’s Mill, Ossett

St Fagans Living Museum, Wales
St Fagans National Museum of History | National Museum Wales
St Fagans is a people’s museum, where we explore history together through people’s everyday lives. Traditional crafts and activities bring St Fagans alive, in workshops where craftsmen still demonstrate their traditional skills.

National Museum of Rural Life, Scotland
National Museum of Rural Life (
The museum galleries explain how the land, people and new ways of working have shaped Scotland’s rural history.

Rural Life Centre, Surrey
Rural Life Living Museum | The largest Living Museum in the South of England (
The museum has over 40,000 artefacts relating to agriculture and rural life which includes buildings.

Lace makers
Home | Cowper & Newton Museum (
Although dedicated to William Cowper and his friend Rev John Newton (best known for writing “Amazing Grace”), there is a section dedicated to the history of the lace making trade Lace Making | Cowper & Newton Museum ( .

Family History Friday: Election Records

Instruction to Voters’ card produced for the country’s first secret ballot at Pontefract from

Election records can be useful for confirming basic details about your ancestors. They are split into two sorts of record – poll books, which should give you names, address, occupations and how a person voted, the early ones of which pre-date census records and electoral registers, which were first introduced in 1832 and give details of everyone entitled to vote.

With a few exceptions, (registers were not published during the latter years of World War 1 (1916–1917) or World War 2 (1940–1944)), they have been produced annually ever since. If you know what area a person lives or lived in you may be able to find their address in an electoral register – though the property through which they qualified to vote is not always the same as their home address.

Do note, however, that electoral registers are arranged firstly under street names and then under an individual’s name. You do need to know beforehand where your ancestor lived! Also remember that before 1918 you will not find any women’s names – it was only after 1918 that all women over the age of 30 who met the minimum property qualifications were allowed to vote and it was 1928 before all men and women over the age of 21 had the right to vote.

Mr Childers, election candidate for Member of Parliament of Pontefract, 1872

An increasing number of electoral register and poll books are available on the commercial websites – for example has London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1965 | Ancestry® and has England & Wales Electoral Registers 1832-1932 | .

Electoral registers from 2002 onwards are available online at Search for People, Businesses and Places – . Be aware though that as a consequence of new regulations, two versions of the electoral register have been produced since 2003:
1.the full version of the register contains the names of all voters and is used primarily to support the electoral process. Public access to it is strictly controlled and the data can only be used for research purposes.
2. the open register, also known as the edited register, is available for sale for commercial use for direct marketing, advertising, etc. It omits the names of electors who have exercised their right to opt out to protect their privacy.

Local reference libraries and archives hold electoral registers which cover their local area. For contact details for local archives see Find an archive | The National Archives .

For electoral registers in Wales go to the National Library of Wales Home | The National Library of Wales and in Scotland you’ll need to look at Home | National Library of Scotland (  and for Voters’ Rolls Voters rolls | National Library of Scotland ( .

Dublin’s electoral registers for 1899, 1908 – 1915 can be found here – Libraries and Archive – 1899 and 1908 to 1915 Electoral Rolls ( .

Lord Pollington, election candidate for Member of Parliament of Pontefract, 1872

Millions signed the three great Chartist petitions of 1839 to 1848. Thousands were active in those years and beyond in the campaign to win the vote, secret ballots (the first in the country was held at Pontefract in 1872), and other democratic rights that we now take for granted. Chartist Ancestors Welcome to Chartist Ancestors | chartist ancestors lists many of those who risked their freedom, and sometimes their lives, because of their participation in the Chartist cause.

The names included on the site are drawn from newspapers, court records and books of the time, from later histories and other sources. For example included is a section on Chartism in Leeds and names of prominent Chartists in the Leeds area are mentioned – Chartism in Leeds | chartist ancestors .

Family History Friday: Jewish records

There are a number of websites that are particularly valuable if you are researching Jewish ancestors both in Britain and abroad, as well as many which are dedicated to recording and honouring the victims of the Holocaust.

Jewish Communities and Records
JewishGen – The Home of Jewish Genealogy
A good site to start with is this one. You can explore millions of records from more than 850 unique collections from around the world, including more than 2.75 million records related to the Holocaust and more than 3 million burial records. Records are continually updated and added.

Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain
Contains databases, news and publications.  You can only access much of the information by becoming a member, though the Resources drop-down menu provides access to all sorts of useful material.Also included in the site is a “Hints and tips for Jewish genealogy research during the coronavirus restrictions” which provides a wealth of information and links to other sites of interest – HINTS AND TIPS FOR JEWISH GENEALOGY RESEARCH DURING CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS 20200608.pdf (

The National Archives
Jewish people and communities in Britain and its former colonies – The National Archives
As you would imagine The National Archives has a wealth of material and this research guide gives plenty of suggestions of records that could be of interest. By using Discovery (their online catalogue) you’ll find aliens’ registration cards for the London area (1918 – 1957) and Home Office denization and naturalization papers and correspondence for 1801 – 1871.

JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) | Ancestry® (
A number of records are available on Ancestry including this one, which is a database of names and other identifying information from cemeteries and burial records worldwide, from the earliest records to the present.
It is a compilation of two linked databases: a database of burial records, and a database of information about each particular cemetery. JOWBR’s aim is to catalogue extant data Jewish cemeteries and burial records worldwide.

Family Search
The Knowles Collection • FamilySearch
A free database. The Knowles Collection links together into family groups, thousands of individual Jews (over 1,150,000 as of Jan 2015). Until now, these records were available only at the Family History Library, or from private archives or individuals.

British-Jewry (
Here you’ll find a variety of information about Jews in Britain, including the Leeds Database The Leeds Database ( . Originally, the intention was to gather data on Leeds Jewish families from the available censuses and absent voter’s lists, plus various burial and marriage collections, not then on the internet. Gradually, it grew and mutated as more and more became available. It started to include Jewish Chronicle notices, items from the London Gazette, naturalisations and the later censuses (1901 and 1911) as they were released. As with any work of this nature it started to go beyond the confines of Leeds and records on families were subsequently added from other areas.

Jewish Chronicle
The JC’s Archive | Jewish News Online | The Jewish Chronicle – The Jewish Chronicle
This database gives you the chance to search through the original print version of The Jewish Chronicle newspaper, dating back over 175 years to 1841.

Manchester Jewish Museum
Manchester Jewish Museum
Holds over 31,000 items in the collection, documenting the story of Jewish migration and settlement in Manchester. From 18th century pedlars to Holocaust Survivors and 20th century refugees, the collection reflects each wave of Jewish migration into Manchester.

London Jewish Museum
Home – The Jewish Museum London
This world-class collection of Judaica and Jewish social history includes ceremonial art, prints and drawings, objects reflecting everyday home and working life, photographic and oral history archives.

London Metropolitan Archives
London Metropolitan Archives Collection Catalogue (

Holds the majority of personal papers relating to Kindertransport cases, including lists of children and their “white cards”, and guardianship files

The Weiner Holocaust Library
Home – The Wiener Holocaust Library
Is a library, archive and information service dedicated to supporting research, learning, teaching and advocacy about the Holocaust and genocide, their causes and consequences.

Yad Vashem
Central DB of Shoah Victims’ Names (
Has collected and recorded the names and biographical details of millions of victims of systematic anti-Jewish persecution during the Holocaust.

Family History Friday: Fishermen

Knottingley vessel ‘Our Margaret’, 1967

We may not realise it nowadays but the fishing industry was once a thriving concern, in which a large number of people were employed.

Broadly speaking there were two types of fishermen – those who fished in waters a long way from home in the Atlantic or North Sea were known as deep sea fishermen. Those who worked on smaller boats around the British coast, who returned home every day were inshore fishermen. You can usually find inshore fishermen on the censuses but because the deep sea fishermen were away for long periods of time, they were often missed off the census.

Women also worked in the industry, sorting and gutting fish – herring girls would travel the east coast from Aberdeen to Great Yarmouth, following the herring fleets as they caught the migrating herring. There are some wonderful videos showing the herring girls at work for instance Herring Harvest (1920) – YouTube .

Men working on the larger fishing boats can be found through crew lists. These will give you each fisherman’s name, age and where they came from. They’ll also show the owner of the boat, where it fished and if someone died whilst on board. The National Archives has useful Research Guides to finding these – Crew lists and agreements and log books of merchant ships 1747-1860 – The National Archives and Crew lists and agreements and log books of merchant ships after 1861 – The National Archives . Crew lists for 1881 (this year was chosen because it coincided with the census) are available free here – 1881 Crew Lists Database ( . This database contains the names of more than 376,500 seamen taken from the first 300 of the 358 boxes of crew agreements from the voyages of British registered vessels that ended in 1881. The National Maritime Museum has also digitised the crew lists of 1915 ( Again this is free to search and contains over 39,000 crew lists with over 750,000 names.

Many men who were apprenticed to the merchant navy joined the fishing industry and the apprentice records are available through Ancestry UK, Apprentices Indentured in Merchant Navy, 1824-1910 | Ancestry® (

Records of deaths at sea will also include fishermen and again Ancestry provides access to these from 1844 to 1890 .

If your ancestor owned a fishing boat then you may be able to find out more about it by visiting The National Archives (check first re opening times Visit us – The National Archives ). Ship registration documents are available from 1786 for London and for 1814 for most other ports and include larger fishing vessels. They describe the ship, the owner of it, the name of its master and you can get a good idea of its history, particularly as it might have been passed down through different generations in the same family.

The Mercantile navy List was first published in 1849. Whilst Lloyd’s Register of Ships lists vessels over 100 gross tons regardless of their country of registration, the mercantile Navy List records all British registered vessels one quarter of a ton and over, including coastal vessels, ferries and pleasure craft, making it the most comprehensive listing of British vessels available. In fact between 1850 and 1874 it included some very large British registered ships which were not included in Lloyd’s Register of Ships. This annual publication can also be a source of information on masters and mates and licensed pilots and can be accessed here – Mercantile Navy List (

Don’t forget that records from your ancestor’s home port can also give unexpected information. Fishing communities often arranged social events which were reported in the local newspaper. Newspapers may also include records of prosecutions or lives lost at sea. Local archives may have photographs, indexes of vessels or interviews with older members of the fishing community.  Some ports have websites which provide a wealth of information for example for Hull  have a look at St. Andrews Dock Heritage Park Action Group – STAND | Hull’s Fishing Heritage ( and Skipper cards | Hull History Centre – these contain the names of skippers, dates of voyages and names of vessels.

A Very English Book List

What is Englishness? Is it politeness? A stiff upper lip? A love of tea or an obsession with the weather? It means something different to everyone.

To celebrate St. George’s Day we thought we would share a list of books that encapsulates (some of) what it means to be English.

Middlemarch by George Eliot

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Voted number 1 on the BBCs 100 Greatest British novels list, Middlemarch tells the intertwining story of the people of the titular fictional midlands town. Though it centres on the relationship between the two main characters, Dorothea Brooke and Tertius Lydgate, the book paints a picture of life in a small rural English town in the 19th century. The themes of class, the status of women, the nature of marriage, idealism, self-interest, religion and politics continue to resonate in England today.

Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson

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Bill Bryson’s travelogue was chosen as the book that best represents England in a poll organised for World Book Day in 2003. The American author looks at Britain through the eyes of an ‘outsider’ as he travels the country on public transport and concludes, ultimately, that he loves it, “every last bit of it, good and bad – Marmite, village fetes, country lanes, people saying ‘mustn’t grumble’ and ‘I’m terribly sorry but’, people apologizing to me when I conk them with a nameless elbow, milk in bottles, beans on toast, haymaking in June, stinging nettles, seaside piers, Ordnance Survey maps, crumpets, hot-water bottles as a necessity, drizzly Sundays – every bit of it.”

Nomad by Alan Partridge

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A very different type of travel book. We may not like to admit it, but there is a definite “Englishness” about Alan Partridge. In the same way that Basil Fawlty, David Brent and Mrs. Merton are quintessentially English, Steve Coogan’s creation could not work if he called another nation his home. In Nomad Alan “dons his boots, windcheater and scarf and embarks on an odyssey through a place he once knew – it’s called Britain.” The book contains all the satire, absurdity, social ineptitude and comedy of everyday life that define the English sense of humour.

The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse

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‘The Code of the Woosters’ is the third full length novel featuring the archetypal upper class twit Bertie Wooster and his unflappable valet Jeeves. A typically madcap plot involving aunts, policeman’s helmets and a stolen silver cow creamer also features a devastating satirical parody of 30’s fascism in the shape of the sinister Roderick Spode and his absurd followers the Black Shorts. Arguably the comic masterpiece of the writer who defined a certain kind of Englishness more than any other.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

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White Teeth focuses on the relationship of two friends, one English and one Bangladeshi, who met in Europe during the final days of World War 2. Now both living in London and reaching their later years, Archie and Samad’s lives brilliantly reflect the joys, conflicts and humour found in the constantly evolving tapestry of modern multicultural English life.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

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This bestselling manifesto for perfect punctuation speaks to the stickler that lives, to some degree or other, inside every English person. For many it is the perfectly prepared scone (jam or cream first?), for others impeccable queuing etiquette, but for Lynne Truss it is the proper use of the English language. In a self-deprecating and humorous voice that is typically English, she calls for the celebration of the comma, apostrophe and semicolon as the wonderful and essential linguistic tools that they are. 

(Excuse me while I proof-read this blog post for grammar)

Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds

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Newspaper gossip columnist Tamara Drewe returns to the remote village where her late mother lived and turns it upside down. This award winning graphic novel paints an engaging picture of how alluring big city morality contrasts and ultimately clashes with the staid comfort and conservatism of rural life. The juxtaposition between the personal drama that Tamara creates in a comfortable middle class writers’ retreat and the struggles of local working class teenagers highlights England’s eternal class and generational conflict.

Welcome to Everytown by Julian Baggini

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Philosopher Julian Baggini pinpointed a postcode on the outskirts of Rotherham as having the most “typical mix of urban and rural, old and young, married and single” to make it the perfect microcosm for the English Everytown. Spending 6 months living there Baggini writes a sympathetic yet critical reflection on English working class life and the prevailing attitudes towards happiness, pleasure, sex, food, drink and death.

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley

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“The past is a foreign country – they do things differently there” is the famous opening of L P Hartley’s novel of lost innocence. Leo Colston, now an old man, stumbles by chance on a childhood diary and remembers the devastating events of the summer of 1900 when, staying with a school friend in the Norfolk countryside he becomes the pawn in a dangerous game of illicit love that will change his life forever. Class, sexuality, the end of the Victorian era and the passing of an English ‘Golden Age’ are the themes that permeate this haunting novel.

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